Bass River is a pioneering winery and vineyard in South Gippsland – that focuses on crafting wines celebrating the region’s unique biodiversity.
The vignerons, the Butera Family, produce small quantities of premium wine using fruit grown only from their estate vineyard. With an emphasis on expressing terroir and sustainable viticulture principles, we create handcrafted and distinctive wines that speak of the Gippsland region.
Our land is bordered by the Bass River and the southern end of the Strzelecki Ranges. The location of the vineyards planted is perfect for experiencing cool conditions from the nearby maritime elements. The Butera family has nurtured the land since 1983.
The wines are carefully monitored to determine when to intervene and when to let the wine carry on naturally. Our team takes pride in our ability to work cohesively with every aspect of the wine's development, to create the best wines possible from our patch of earth - the proof of which is in your glass.
Pasquale had a lifelong ambition to plant a vineyard and produce quality wine. Grape growing and winemaking was a significant part of family life in Southern Italy. Most of the viticultural principles employed at Bass River have developed from Pasquale's holistic knowledge of the vine, earth and water.
Despite some suggestion that the region was not suited to grow grapes, Pasquale engaged a professional team of advisors to assist in developing the vineyard. In 1998, the first planting was completed, which was quickly followed by much larger plantings in 1999, 2006 and 2012.
Pasquale's passion is to support the vines, grow grapes and nurture the land, knowing that great wine is always made in the vineyard. His persistence with the earth, the region and the vines has resulted in the ongoing success of Bass River and provided a vision for many generations of winemakers to come.
Frank's inheritance – a rich history of food, culture and wine – lead him to pursue his interest in winemaking. Frank completed studies in Physics in 1996 and soon afterwards commenced the Wine Science Degree at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. The combination of these studies gives Frank a thorough and unique understanding of the mechanisms involved with both grapes and wine.
Frank is a science and engineering professional whose keen pursuit of knowledge and questioning intellect continues to find fresh challenges (and solutions) in winemaking. His scientific background, coupled with a strong philosophy and sense-of-place winemaking principles, has meant that each vintage from Bass River has gone from strength to strength.
Frank’s pursuit of winemaking knowledge regularly takes him to national and international Pinot Noir and Chardonnay conferences. Frank completed the AWRI Advanced Wine Assessment Course (AWAC) in 2019, and has been invited to judge wines at many wine shows. Frank is a scholar of the 2022 Len Evans Tutorial (LET).
Located on site, the Bass River winery is as close to the action as we can get.
Because of the proximity to the vineyards, the grape handling and winemaking can be undertaken immediately after the fruit is picked. We have the technology of heating, cooling and freezing our tanks, using each treatment specific to the desired wine style we're trying to achieve. The entire winery is gravity fed, from the beginning of fruit processing, to when it is turned into juice and finally pressed. The wine is then delivered to the underground barrel room and bottling line.
At Bass River, the winery operations and sustainability principles are integrated to reduce our carbon footprint where feasible and practical. We have installed a 7kW solar panel system to offset our energy consumption. We now produce more energy over a year than we need to operate the winery during the vintage period.
Further, our wastewater is sustainably returned to the groundwater, and grape waste is converted to fertiliser for the vineyard or supplied as a treat to our beef cattle.
Our wines portray the unique sites on which we grow our grapes. Through a calculated study of both our land and the conditions we face each year, we seek to craft wines with elegance, freshness, purity, balance and length.
By allowing controlled indigenous yeast to do our fermentation, and using traditional winemaking methods, the expression of our terroir and the character of Bass River is enhanced.
These techniques assist us to produce ‘wines of place', showcasing the essence of the Gippsland region. We express this through our Single Vineyard wines, by fermenting each clone of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir separately, to better understand their attributes, how they influence the wine as a whole and also their response to seasonal variations.
Our French oak barrels are sourced from the best family coopers in France. Every year we seek out the best combination of barrels to provide the structure, integration and flavours to support the high quality and character of our fruit. All our wines are bottled under screwcap, to preserve their integrity.
Each bottle of Bass River wine holds a memory – a unique story that starts in the vineyard and becomes a part of your story when you sit down to enjoy it. Our wines are lively, with a concentration of flavour and balance. As young wines, they are seamless – nothing appears out of place. With age, our wines retain their freshness and purity, but with development in the bottle, additional layers of complexity present themselves. We achieve this level of distinction and excellence because we are both vignerons and winemakers. We understand the symbiosis of vineyard and winery, the beautiful process to get from grape to bottle.
Our ultimate aim is to grow the best fruit possible from our vineyard; there is no tiered system or ranking of quality. All our grapes share equal treatment and care to produce the best possible grapes the growing season has to offer.
We focus on low yields of 3 - 4 tonnes per hectare for Pinot Noir and Merlot and about 4 - 5 tonnes per hectare for Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. This guarantees the quality and concentration of the fruit we use in our wines.
The winery and vineyard sites were selected specifically for premium viticulture with sustainability and environmental considerations high on the agenda. The location provides an ideal climate for the selected grape varieties, planted to offer shelter from hot winds for the white varieties and full sun (for optimum ripeness) for the red varieties.
Cool ripening conditions and long growing seasons from bud burst to harvest in March and April allows the berries to retain excellent acid levels and develop intense fruit flavours.
The growing season at Bass River extends beyond neighboring vineyards and regions. Our harvest is noticeably later than nearby vineyards, and anecdotally we've noticed that although the mean day time vineyard temperatures are comparable to nearby sites, the night time temperatures are cooler, allowing our grapes to retain higher levels of freshness and vibrancy.
We only use grapes from our Single Vineyard sites, meticulously cared for by the owner Pasquale Butera. Pasquale follows organic and sustainable principles closely, while acknowledging that at times conventional grape growing processes are required to deliver rich, flavour-filled and elegant berries.
Our vine canopies consist of a basic sprawl with a catch wire for stability and all pruning, position, shoot thinning and fruit thinning is performed carefully by hand. We encourage the growth of native grasses and surrounding trees from nature reserves to promote biodiversity in the vineyard.
The Bass River property is approximately 44 hectares - a third of the land is used for viticulture and olive groves, with the remaining area being used to raise 100% Gippsland grass-fed Angus Beef. A portion of the property has returned to native vegetation; this land now flourishes with a growing eco-system.
The House Block is an irregular parcel located close to the winery and cellar door. The aspect is slightly south-east with an elevation of 30–40m above sea level and the rows run north to south.
The soil consists of an organic layer of fertile black sandy soil with a bleached subsurface over cemented sands (coffee rock).
The House Block was planted in 1998 and consists of Pinot Noir (MV6 clones), Chardonnay (I10V1 & I10V5 clones), Riesling and Merlot. While the original planting also comprised Cabernet Sauvignon it was decided after the 2012 vintage to remove the Cabernet. The vines were healthy and well established with deep root systems, so our decision was to graft over the existing vines rather than remove the crop.
The 2012 planting included Chardonnay (Penfolds 58 & Mendoza clones) and Pinot Noir (MV6 clones). In 2014 fruit from the new plantings was incorporated in the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blends.
TThe perimeter of the House Block is shielded by a combination of native and olive trees. These trees assist in controlling the excessive wind to the vines, and the olives are harvested to produce our Bass River olive oil.
The River Block is a precisely planted vineyard consisting of 80 rows, in the Bass River flats. The rows run north to south with a slight eastern aspect. Located only metres from the Bass River, the site was selected due to its unique soil structure, which consists of a dark brown fertile layer over a dense brown/orange compact loam.
The River Block was mostly planted in the winter of 2006. However, due to the frost event of October 2006, some portions of the block were replanted in 2007.
The River Block consists of Pinot Noir (777, 114, G5V15 clones), Chardonnay (I10V5 clones), Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. Our olive grove lies at the eastern end of the River Block, with approximately 600 olive trees.
Planted in January 2018, the newest addition to our vineyard is known as the Northside Block.
Predicted to have our first crop from this site in 2021, we’ve planted 2 acres of nursery vines on a North East sloping elevation. Adjacent to the House Block, the soil profile is similar, consisting of an organic layer of fertile black sandy soil with a bleached subsurface over cemented sands (coffee rock). This is perfect for our new plantings of Gamay and Pinot Meunier, which will be an ideal addition to our sparkling wine.